Reader voices: The Fear Factor at church and being too shy to share
I would never turn down an assignment to speak at church, but volunteering my comments and bearing my testimony in a meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are an altogether different matter. My attempts, both early in my life and more recently, at voluntarily sharing at church have been pretty shaky. Don’t believe me? Read on.
Recent attempt to share at church No. 1: I’m sitting in our Mormon ward’s gospel doctrine class, absorbed in a meaningful discussion of the Book of Mormon. Something jiggles around in my mind, so I take the plunge and slowly raise my hand. All eyes rest on me as I utter my thoughts. Trying to appear confident, composed and knowledgeable, I offer my comment. But then, my favorite Sunday stalker, “the blush,” starts its fateful climb up my neck, settling into my cheeks. A bit panicked, I continue speaking, trying to ignore this rapid change in my natural coloring. But it doesn’t stop there — now a sheen of sweat springs forth, covering my already pink face. Charming. All the while I choke out my comments, and then finally — it’s over. But is it? Even as the teacher resumes her lesson, I feel eyes lingering on me as I regulate my breathing and with a cool flick of the wrist, casually wipe the damp from my face. What is this? I silently demand. Am I 13? No, and I’ll proclaim it from the LDS meetinghouse rooftops just to drive home the ridiculousness of it all: I am (I was going to reveal my age but changed my mind; let’s just say that I’m approaching middle age), for crying out loud. When, exactly, does one outgrow blushing?
Recent attempt No. 2: It’s another Sabbath day, several weeks later. I long to stand and bear my testimony. I have the perfect, simple testimony planned in my head. I feel the Spirit’s gentle prompting, and my outfit looks okay and my hair is lying straight. All it would take is a casual stroll to the podium, shoulders back and a serene expression on my face. But, heart pounding, I wait ... and wait. Suddenly my ears perk as a dignified member of the congregation is speaking — and sharing “my” testimony (that is, my introductory comments to the main course: my testimony of the Savior). He smoothly utters the same speech I had planned to give. “Wait!” a miniscule voice in my head cries. “That’s what I was going to say!” OK, perhaps Brother Smoothie did articulate it better than I could have. But now I feel that my opportunity has passed. I comfort myself with the thought that I have born my testimony in my heart (which, let’s face it, isn’t quite the same).
Recent attempt No. 3: It’s another month, and again my heart stirs with something special that I yearn to share in testimony meeting. This time I don’t dawdle. I jet up to the front, taking my place among the six other ward members who scurried up when the meeting opened, and patiently wait my turn. I try to appear focused, but my thoughts tumble through my head as I mentally organize them. Then, I freeze. Part of my plan was to bid farewell to our beloved ward, but what’s this? The couple ahead of me in line is announcing their impending move and also bidding farewell! Oh, brother. Inwardly I sigh and realize that now I must somehow transition gracefully to our family’s move and continue the “theme” of the meeting, which incidentally does turn out to be “goodbye.” Two ward members who follow me announce that they are moving, too.
What is to be learned from this? Sometimes it’s a struggle to be heard. On some level, especially at church, most of us long to share our unique experiences, thoughts and feelings as they relate to the gospel. It feels good to have a voice — it’s empowering. We share to set an example to our children, other family members, or friends. (“I’m participating, so can you!”) We share to vocally express to our Father in Heaven our deep love, devotion, and gratitude to him and his Son. We share to teach others a new concept or remind them of an ancient one. By sharing, we reinforce our own beliefs.
For some, vocally sharing comes at a painful cost; for others it’s an effortless extension of their personalities. Silly blushes and stammering are frustrating. But despite the awkwardness of it all, I know that I’ll never stop making those attempts. I love the Savior and his gospel too much to not open my mouth and try to share what is in my heart.
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